From: Alice Taylor
EU Delegation Reacts to Albania’s Incinerator Plans

Investing in incinerators could delay the implementation of directives and policies required by the EU and make it harder to meet necessary targets, according to the EU delegation in Tirana.

Answering questions for Exit, they noted that Albania needs to spend more than EUR 500 million to implement a waste management system that is up to EU standards. By investing in incinerators which are in the lower echelons of the EU waste hierarchy, i.e. not desirable, this could harm Albania’s compliance with what is expected of it.

“The 2018-2032 Integrated Waste Management Masterplan of Albania estimates that more than €500 million will be needed to implement an integrated waste management system up to EU standards in Albania. Investing in the lower echelons of the EU waste hierarchy might delay the implementation of the Waste Framework Directive and its policies as well as make it more difficult to reach EU targets on recycling.”

They also noted that the presence of below standard landfills and dumpsites is an issue.

“Closing of numerous non-compliant landfills and dumpsites remains a challenge.  Separate collection of waste streams and economic instruments to promote recycling and reuse and to prevent waste generation remain limited.”

The delegation also noted that the issue of incinerators was highlighted in the recent Progress Report published earlier this month. The report said that not only is the “closing of numerous non-compliant landfills and dumpsites” a “challenge” but that there are a limited amount of alternative options for waste disposal and recycling. 

Furthermore, it said that the construction of incinerators is concerning.

“The construction of new incinerators poses concerns in terms of compliance with the EU waste acquis including the waste hierarchy principle and the recycling targets. The enforcement and policing institutions roles and function should be clarified and strengthened.”

The delegation explained that the European Unions approach to waste management is a hierarchy that assets priority for prevention, reuse, recycling, recovery and disposal (including landfills and incineration without energy recovery). With landfill and incineration at the bottom of the hierarchy, states should be focusing on recycling, reducing, and reusing instead.

The circular economy package adopted by the EC in March of this year sets forth some legislative proposals to stimulate Europe’s transition towards a circular economy. They set clear targets for the reduction of waste, waste management, and recycling.

They include:

  • 65% of municipal waste to be recycled by 2030
  • 75% of packaging waste to be recycled by 2030
  • Reducing landfill disposal to 10% by 2030
  • A ban on landfilling separately collected waste
  • Promotion of economic instrument to discourage landfilling
  • Economic incentives for producers to put greener products on the market

Recent figures from INSTAT show that Albania deposits 80% of household waste into landfill. Less than 18% is recycled and less than 1% is incinerated. Despite this, the government is paying millions for incinerator concessions with a private company. 

These concessions see the government paying the company if there is not enough waste to burn. Two out of the three incinerators haven’t been built but are benefitting from state money under this clause while the third isn’t running at capacity because they claim there is not enough waste to burn.

In fact, the amount of waste being recycled is decreasing instead of increase. Landfill deposits have almost doubled between 2013 and 2019.

If the Albanian government continues to push incinerators in the country, they must adhere to national and EU legislation on environmental protection. This includes continuous monitoring of air quality, soil, and water pollution. The Delegation added that “public consultations on the projects should be guaranteed.”

Today, Prime Minister Edi Rama posted a video about Sharra Landfill and promised that soon the government will build a recycling plant there.